Monday, 27 April 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

My nephew, Charles Goodridge, was killed by an off duty policeman in Texas this past summer. Charles' killing is not an uncommon occurrence. A policeman kills a black person every 28 hours. Because of my loss, hurt and anger, I am drawn to write this piece.

People have responded to these injustices by protesting to express their justified anger and rage. Some protests have gotten unruly and led to burning and looting. The media and so-called spokespeople for the injured parties implore us to remain calm and not burn and riot. Violence gets us nowhere and leaves our neighborhoods in ashes. We must remain calm.

OK.  I should know better.  When you pay attention to what conservatives are saying at the Iowa Freedom Forum, attended as it is by religious activists, you’re going to hear kookiness and craziness.  But what’s sad is how the “red meat” issues raised by the likes of Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are so devoid of nutritional value.  Empty calories, all of it.

You hear the usual talk about lower taxes and less governmental regulation, even though Republicans under Reagan and the Bushes (along with the Democrats as well) oversaw expansions in government.  George H.W. Bush famously said, “Read my lips — no new taxes,” before proceeding to raise taxes once he became president.  Along with lower taxes and smaller government, Republicans also claim to support “family values,” a vapid phrase that basically means whatever you want to read into it.  I’m not a fan of Obama’s priorities and policies, but one thing I can say for the man is that his life, his wife, and his teenage girls have exuded family values, Thanksgiving controversy or no.

The existence of nuclear weapons makes Armageddon possible. If there were no nuclear weapons on the planet, the human race would have a dire threat lifted and could focus on the other, less instantaneous, threats to the survival of our species.

In certain cops and robbers films, a scene arises when protagonists are lined up opposite each other, both factions pointing weapons at their opponents. Obviously this is a highly risky scenario which typically ends badly - in a bloodbath. One of the protagonists decides he can win if he fires first; a passing waiter drops a tray of glasses and a gunman thinks the shooting has started; someone can't stand the tension, panics, and starts the slaughter. Occasionally, sanity prevails and everyone carefully puts down their weapons. Such a confrontation is the posture adopted on a nuclear scale by our leaders to make us feel safe! All the nuclear states resist an agreement to give up their nuclear weapons. In fact, they are all renewing them.

The Obama administration urgently needs to nominate a qualified individual as Undersecretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. The Dodd-Frank financial reforms are under sustained and determined attack, and the lack of a confirmed Undersecretary is making it significantly harder for Treasury to effectively defend this important legislation. Failing to fill this Undersecretary position would constitute a serious mistake that jeopardizes a signature achievement of this presidency.

In the continuing absence of an Undersecretary for Domestic Finance, the administration has recently displayed an inconsistent – or perhaps even incoherent – policy stance on financial sector issues. On the one hand, in mid-December, the White House agreed to rollback a significant part of Dodd-Frank – the so-called "swaps push-out," which was shamefully attached at the behest of Citigroup to a must-pass government spending bill. The White House put up little resistance to this tactic and, at the critical moment, lobbied House Democrats to support the repeal of Section 716.

Jan 27

A Year of Euromaidan: Mistakes and Implications of Revolution of Dignity

By Veronika Kyrylenko and Ryan Schinault, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It has been a year since the victory of Euromaidan in Ukraine in February 2014. The revolution began in support of closer integration with the European Union, and resulted in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych's regime. This is a sufficient period of time to evaluate and summarize the outcomes of these events. In order to obtain a clear understanding of the internal and external implications of Euromaidan in Ukraine, it is essential to examine why and how Ukraine found itself in such a difficult situation. This includes the war in the east of the country, loss of Crimea and the comprehensive economic crisis.

In the West, Russian aggression towards Ukraine is widely believed to be the only reason that created the Ukrainian crisis, although no credible evidence to prove such aggression has been ever presented. There is no doubt that Russia plays a huge role in the post-Euromaidan events in Ukraine, but Russia cannot be exclusively blamed for the situation as that would ignore the inner political transformations taking place in Ukraine itself. These transformations started during Euromaidan and then were continued by the new government of Ukraine.

The Foreign Secretary refused to contact the Ethiopian government to protest its abduction of a British man, it’s emerged, despite warnings from Foreign Office (FCO) staff that the man was at risk of execution.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London, was abducted in Yemen and rendered to Ethiopia seven months ago today. Mr. Tsege, who is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian government, remains in incommunicado detention. The Ethiopian government has refused to reveal his whereabouts, or confirm whether it plans to carry out a death sentence imposed in absentia in 2009.

Jan 26

Matthaei Letter to Treasury Secretary Lew

By Julie Matthaei, SpeakOut | Open Letter

Dear Treasury Secretary Lew,

Thank-you for the invitation to meet with you to discuss solutions to the problem of economic inequality. It is wonderful that you are reaching out to economists to find new solutions to this pressing and challenging problem. I very much regret not being able to attend, and wanted to send you my thoughts and a suggestion.

As you know, and Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the 21st Century shows, inequality has gotten much worse in the last half-century. The middle class is disappearing. A country of proud, industrious and entrepreneurial people is fast becoming a casino economy of gated communities, surrounded by a precariat of low wage workers and the unemployed. Our cherished democratic political process has been severely corrupted by the power of concentrated wealth, making it difficult for citizens to pass policies which would correct the situation.

Six days of testimony at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling have proven the agency’s obsession with proclaiming its competence. Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name.

Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious category — Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad light, and Risen for reporting it. Muffled CIA anger was audible, coming from the witness stand, a seat filled by people claiming to view any aspersions on the CIA to be baseless calumnies.

It was with heavy heart I started reading a recent report of Oregon Health Authority, an agency of the state of Oregon. This report finalized a state and federal investigation into the 2011 poisoning of Oregonians by timber companies.

The poisoned victims live near private forests in the Highway 36 corridor in western Lane County. Ninety-five percent or 173,152 acres of the land in the scene of the crime is forest, almost equally divided between federal and private owners.

Jan 26

Three Minutes to Midnight

By Robert Dodge, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse - midnight. This significant move of TWO minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.

In moving the hand to 3 minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict the Executive Director of the Bulletin identified in his comments: "the probability of global catastrophe is very high"... "the choice is ours and the clock is ticking"..."we feel the need to warn the world" ..."the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency". He spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, "they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them" and emphasized "this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it". The Clock has ranged from 2 minutes to midnight at the height of the Cold War to 17 minutes till midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

My nephew, Charles Goodridge, was killed by an off duty policeman in Texas this past summer. Charles' killing is not an uncommon occurrence. A policeman kills a black person every 28 hours. Because of my loss, hurt and anger, I am drawn to write this piece.

People have responded to these injustices by protesting to express their justified anger and rage. Some protests have gotten unruly and led to burning and looting. The media and so-called spokespeople for the injured parties implore us to remain calm and not burn and riot. Violence gets us nowhere and leaves our neighborhoods in ashes. We must remain calm.

OK.  I should know better.  When you pay attention to what conservatives are saying at the Iowa Freedom Forum, attended as it is by religious activists, you’re going to hear kookiness and craziness.  But what’s sad is how the “red meat” issues raised by the likes of Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are so devoid of nutritional value.  Empty calories, all of it.

You hear the usual talk about lower taxes and less governmental regulation, even though Republicans under Reagan and the Bushes (along with the Democrats as well) oversaw expansions in government.  George H.W. Bush famously said, “Read my lips — no new taxes,” before proceeding to raise taxes once he became president.  Along with lower taxes and smaller government, Republicans also claim to support “family values,” a vapid phrase that basically means whatever you want to read into it.  I’m not a fan of Obama’s priorities and policies, but one thing I can say for the man is that his life, his wife, and his teenage girls have exuded family values, Thanksgiving controversy or no.

The existence of nuclear weapons makes Armageddon possible. If there were no nuclear weapons on the planet, the human race would have a dire threat lifted and could focus on the other, less instantaneous, threats to the survival of our species.

In certain cops and robbers films, a scene arises when protagonists are lined up opposite each other, both factions pointing weapons at their opponents. Obviously this is a highly risky scenario which typically ends badly - in a bloodbath. One of the protagonists decides he can win if he fires first; a passing waiter drops a tray of glasses and a gunman thinks the shooting has started; someone can't stand the tension, panics, and starts the slaughter. Occasionally, sanity prevails and everyone carefully puts down their weapons. Such a confrontation is the posture adopted on a nuclear scale by our leaders to make us feel safe! All the nuclear states resist an agreement to give up their nuclear weapons. In fact, they are all renewing them.

The Obama administration urgently needs to nominate a qualified individual as Undersecretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. The Dodd-Frank financial reforms are under sustained and determined attack, and the lack of a confirmed Undersecretary is making it significantly harder for Treasury to effectively defend this important legislation. Failing to fill this Undersecretary position would constitute a serious mistake that jeopardizes a signature achievement of this presidency.

In the continuing absence of an Undersecretary for Domestic Finance, the administration has recently displayed an inconsistent – or perhaps even incoherent – policy stance on financial sector issues. On the one hand, in mid-December, the White House agreed to rollback a significant part of Dodd-Frank – the so-called "swaps push-out," which was shamefully attached at the behest of Citigroup to a must-pass government spending bill. The White House put up little resistance to this tactic and, at the critical moment, lobbied House Democrats to support the repeal of Section 716.

Jan 27

A Year of Euromaidan: Mistakes and Implications of Revolution of Dignity

By Veronika Kyrylenko and Ryan Schinault, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It has been a year since the victory of Euromaidan in Ukraine in February 2014. The revolution began in support of closer integration with the European Union, and resulted in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych's regime. This is a sufficient period of time to evaluate and summarize the outcomes of these events. In order to obtain a clear understanding of the internal and external implications of Euromaidan in Ukraine, it is essential to examine why and how Ukraine found itself in such a difficult situation. This includes the war in the east of the country, loss of Crimea and the comprehensive economic crisis.

In the West, Russian aggression towards Ukraine is widely believed to be the only reason that created the Ukrainian crisis, although no credible evidence to prove such aggression has been ever presented. There is no doubt that Russia plays a huge role in the post-Euromaidan events in Ukraine, but Russia cannot be exclusively blamed for the situation as that would ignore the inner political transformations taking place in Ukraine itself. These transformations started during Euromaidan and then were continued by the new government of Ukraine.

The Foreign Secretary refused to contact the Ethiopian government to protest its abduction of a British man, it’s emerged, despite warnings from Foreign Office (FCO) staff that the man was at risk of execution.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London, was abducted in Yemen and rendered to Ethiopia seven months ago today. Mr. Tsege, who is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian government, remains in incommunicado detention. The Ethiopian government has refused to reveal his whereabouts, or confirm whether it plans to carry out a death sentence imposed in absentia in 2009.

Jan 26

Matthaei Letter to Treasury Secretary Lew

By Julie Matthaei, SpeakOut | Open Letter

Dear Treasury Secretary Lew,

Thank-you for the invitation to meet with you to discuss solutions to the problem of economic inequality. It is wonderful that you are reaching out to economists to find new solutions to this pressing and challenging problem. I very much regret not being able to attend, and wanted to send you my thoughts and a suggestion.

As you know, and Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the 21st Century shows, inequality has gotten much worse in the last half-century. The middle class is disappearing. A country of proud, industrious and entrepreneurial people is fast becoming a casino economy of gated communities, surrounded by a precariat of low wage workers and the unemployed. Our cherished democratic political process has been severely corrupted by the power of concentrated wealth, making it difficult for citizens to pass policies which would correct the situation.

Six days of testimony at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling have proven the agency’s obsession with proclaiming its competence. Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name.

Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious category — Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad light, and Risen for reporting it. Muffled CIA anger was audible, coming from the witness stand, a seat filled by people claiming to view any aspersions on the CIA to be baseless calumnies.

It was with heavy heart I started reading a recent report of Oregon Health Authority, an agency of the state of Oregon. This report finalized a state and federal investigation into the 2011 poisoning of Oregonians by timber companies.

The poisoned victims live near private forests in the Highway 36 corridor in western Lane County. Ninety-five percent or 173,152 acres of the land in the scene of the crime is forest, almost equally divided between federal and private owners.

Jan 26

Three Minutes to Midnight

By Robert Dodge, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse - midnight. This significant move of TWO minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.

In moving the hand to 3 minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict the Executive Director of the Bulletin identified in his comments: "the probability of global catastrophe is very high"... "the choice is ours and the clock is ticking"..."we feel the need to warn the world" ..."the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency". He spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, "they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them" and emphasized "this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it". The Clock has ranged from 2 minutes to midnight at the height of the Cold War to 17 minutes till midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.